Sunday, January 25, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 16: The Green Line Cafe Edition

January 23 couldn't come soon enough. For the whole week leading up to Friday I was transfixed and so excited to try The Green Line Cafe for the first time. I was able to taste Dottie's Donuts the week before, and I was pumped to try them again at a different location. After stalking The Green Line Cafe on Instagram, I happily noticed that their coffee joint seemed a lot less crowded than Hub Bub and they had a ton more vegan options than just the donuts. All of this meant that Lauren and I wouldn't have to squeeze into a shared table and we could order a lot more food!

I had absolutely no idea how busy The Green Line Cafe would be on a Friday morning, and therefore didn't know how quickly they would sell out of their donuts and other vegan favorites I had been wanting to try. So, Lauren and I woke up at least an hour earlier than the week before, hoping for a wide selection of vegan treats.

Green Line Cafe's new location is only five blocks from our apartment which made it a quick walk. To my joyful surprise there were only two other patrons already seated when we arrived. We were the only ones in line to order which was one of my first clues that I was going to enjoy this experience much more. Whenever we're presented with a lot of vegan options, it always takes Lauren and I a pretty long time to decide what we want. I'm so used to finding that one item on a menu that I can actually eat, so when I have numerous choices to pick from I'm overwhelmed! Because I had my sights set on donuts, I selected the chocolate blueberry and cinnamon and sugar ones. Lauren chose the peach donut and the Steve Sandwich. We also ordered our favorite fancy drinks; chai again for me!
All of the donuts were delicious of course, and it was really nice to have all four flavors still left to choose from. I was really impressed by the sandwich! It was a toasted marinated tofu sandwich with veggies and a delicious vegan chipotle aioli dressing. It was a tiny bit spicy, but overall it was amazing! Luckily Lauren and I like order different things so that we can share and try even more items. I split my donuts with her and she gave me half of her sandwich. I wasn't super thrilled with my chai though; it was too watery for me. That being said though, I'll definitely be going back to Green Line Cafe again thanks to their extensive vegan offerings. I'll skip a fancy drink and stick to the food. I'm thinking of trying the sweet potato burrito next!

Lauren and I also had a few other errands to run. Lately we've been using Fridays to get stuff done while still throwing some fun into the mix. After taking our time at Green Line, we hopped on the subway and headed over to Staples to use up some more of our rewards. We picked up some cute washi tape, to-do list notepads, and cards. I also bought watercolors!

Next, we made our way to Whole Foods. We were in dire need of veggie broth, and since we prefer a very specific brand and type (Better Than Bullion's No Chicken Broth), we made the trek since we were already in Center City. Since Whole Foods is the only place that sells this particular broth and half the time we're searching for it they're out of stock, we grabbed three jars like the apocalypse was coming. Sadly they were out of the Field Roast Chao cheese, but we did pick up some mozzarella Daiya.

We could have easily jumped back on the subway to get back home, but we decided to soak up nice day since it wasn't too cold and the sun was out. I also really like walking down South Street; so many cute shops/eateries and townhouses to admire! After walking over 30 blocks, it was nice to be back at our apartment.

The rest of the day was spent sewing! Lauren and I recently got interested in garment sewing again. We have a "collection" of pdf patterns that are just waiting to be used. I printed several out and we got to work. Lauren worked on a Linden Sweatshirt and I started with a Tova Top.

The past handful of Fridays were really lacking a special feature. It had been a long time since we indulged in Friday night pizza night, so we eagerly agreed upon making pizza for dinner and I quickly devoured my share!

This is what Best Friend Fridays are all about! I love trying new places, getting errands out of the way, crafting with my bestie, and eating pizza. Nothing beats that!   

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Birthday Goals Update

Since today is my half birthday, which may not seem like that big of a deal, I thought I'd briefly go over how I'm progressing on my 24 birthday goals.

1. Run another marathon and ultra marathon.
I'm not planning on running anymore races until after my birthday. I took much too long of a break after AR50 and haven't really been interested in running until this past October. I'm signed up to run the San Francisco Marathon (two days after my birthday), but don't see any ultra races happening anytime soon.
2. Blog at least 5 times each month. 
I'm doing great at this!
3. Sew every month.
I'm pretty sure I haven't sewn every month. That being said though, I have sewn a lot more this past year than I have before. Plus, I plan on sewing through a lot of my garment stash, hopefully really soon!
4. Use up the majority of my stashed fabric (so I can buy more, of course) ;)
Like I said above, I have plans for a lot of the fabric I currently have. I've officially put myself on a fabric-purchasing freeze until I sew through the majority of my stash.
5. Knit and finish at least one project. (I must get back into knitting!)
Several months ago I started (and finished!) an Orchid Cowl for Marissa's birthday, so I can definitely check this goal off my list! I also started a winter hat (which I need to frog), and what is going to be a huge knit blanket (still currently in the making and will be for a long time). In February Lauren and I are going yarn shopping so I'll knit Lauren her super-belated birthday cowl as well.
6. Mail at least one letter each month.
Moving across the country as really encouraged me to send a lot more mail. I think I mailed at least one letter each month, except in December. I just completely forgot, which seems odd. The postal service's biggest delivery month is most likely December because of the holidays, and I didn't even partake in this world wide mailing spree.
7. Take lots of pictures with my big camera as a way of exploring my "neighborhood". 
Basically, I really haven't used my big camera a whole lot. I really need to get on this!
8. Finish my Summer Sampler cross stitch pattern.
I'm almost there! I hope to have it completed by the end of February!
9. Read at least one book per month.
So far I've read a book every month, except in August.
10. Sew at least two dresses, and actually wear them.
This summer I cut out fabric for the Alder Dress. I started sewing it up and made a mistake which developed into even more of a mess because I was so frustrated. Needless to say I haven't worked up the courage to pick this project back up. But I am hoping to get back into sewing soon and whip up a lot of new pieces, dresses included!
11. Try at least one new food item each month.
Honestly, I don't even know. But what I do know is that I've been eating a lot healthier and eating familiar foods in new ways. Let's take sweet potatoes as an example. Before, the only way I would be inclined to dine on sweet potatoes was in the fry form. Now though, one of my favorite dinners to cook is roasted sweet potatoes with other random veggies.
12. Read through all of the magazines I own to clear up some much needed space.
I got maybe halfway through all of my magazines; I seriously had so many of them! One of my August goals was to go through my magazine stash. By the end of August I still had so many left to read, so I decided to just toss the rest of them. I didn't miss anything life-altering by not reading them, and I cleared up an entire corner in my room. That's a win-win!
13. Catch up on all of the birthday presents I owe people.
I'm almost there. All I have left is Lauren's birthday cowl.
14. Run under an eight minute mile.
I haven't really tried to do this yet. I'll be going home to Sacramento in July, so my brother and I will have a mile race and I'm determined to run a sub eight minute mile.
15. Go through and clean up my room at my parents' house.
I talked a little bit about this when reviewing my December goals. But basically, I've come to the realization that my room at my parents' house will never be as clean and organized as I would want. I did what I could with my space, but at the end of the day there's so many other factors feeding into this task that can't be disturbed, so my room is as good as it's going to get. 
16. Create an art/gallery wall.
I hope to start working on this next month. I already have a few pictures that I need to find frames for, and others that I can't wait to receive/purchase/make!
17. Keep plants alive.
When I was living in Sacramento, I managed to keep several different plants alive. When I moved to Philadelphia, I left these plants at Leti's house for her to babysit. After visiting in December, I'm happy to report that my plants are still thriving. Also, when Lauren and I moved to the East Coast, one of the first things we did was buy new plants. We each chose two different varieties to keep on our respective window sills. All of the four plants are doing great!
18. Have at least one vegetable every night for dinner.
Nope. I would say that most nights I have at least one vegetable for dinner, but I know that there are definitely times where I just had a large cup of trail mix to hold me over till breakfast. I have made an effort to eat more nutritious meals though, so that's got to count for something, right?
19. Set a monthly budget and stick to it.
Since moving to Philadelphia I set a monthly budget for myself and broke my total budget into separate categories (rent, electricity, groceries, eating out, fun, misc., etc.). I've been able to stick to my budget every month except for December (Christmas present giving time!). I didn't go over my budget by much, and all of the other months I've managed to "save" a decent amount. So, I consider this a success thus far.
20. Weed through my belongings and donate items I no longer need.
I donated a lot of things in June when I moved out of our Sacramento apartment into Leti's house, when I left Leti's house for Philadelphia, and when I arrived in Philadelphia. Everything I currently own in my Philadelphia apartment are items I actually use. However, the whole "Capsule Wardrobe" idea has really got me thinking about all of the clothes I still own. While I love the concept, there's no way I'm willing to narrow my wardrobe down any further right now. Plus, I don't have the extra space to store the different seasons' pieces. Maybe this summer or fall I'll go through my closest again and figure out what I've actually worn this past year. The things I haven't worn in over a year, I'll make an effort to wear. If I no longer like that item, I'll donate it. That's my new plan!
21. Get a hair cut!
I got a hair cut in September!
22. Make sure I get my daily 10,000 steps, but not make it a chore.
I've done pretty well with my daily steps, thanks to my FitBit. But to track my success even better, I've made this goal one of my New Year's Resolutions and have been marking off the days I do reach my daily 10,000 steps.
23. Try a new physical activity, like yoga.
I've tried yoga and zumba, and luckily enjoyed both but for very different reasons. I hurt my hip a month or so ago and I've found that zumba really aggravates it, so I've been cutting down on that activity. But, I have been going to power yoga twice a week and find that it really helps get some stretching in post-running. 
24. Ride my bike often, while I have the opportunity. 
I haven't rode my bike at all in a few years, and this year isn't an exception, sadly.

It's only been half of a year since my birthday and I already feel like I've made a lot of progress on these 24 goals. Let's see what more I can do in 6 months!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 15: Vegan Donuts Edition

Since I'm weird and all, one of my hobbies is scouring the "veganphilly" and "phillyvegans" hashtags on Instagram. I had been wanting to try some Dottie's vegan dounuts after drooling over them for the past several months. I started following @dottiesdonuts on Instagram and have been obsessing over the specific locations their products are sold. Lauren and I were planning on going to Hub Bub the week before, but things happened and we ended up needing to be home all day to wait for Lauren's sewing machine delivery. So, we postponed our plan and decided to stop for donuts at Hub Bub the next Friday.

Most mornings, Dottie's Donuts posts their current selection of donut flavors, as they change daily. I woke up Friday morning and saw that maple, cinnamon sugar, matcha ginger, and spiced cranberry were being offered that day. I was super excited to try the first two!

Because we slept in, I was really hoping that Hub Bub wouldn't have already sold out of donuts. I had no idea about their daily quantity, and since it was a weekday and most people work during the week and wake up much earlier than us, I knew there was a good chance that we wouldn't be getting any treats.

We walked the ten blocks over to Hub Bub and hopped in line. Lauren and I ordered our drinks (chai for me, of course), then Lauren added that we would also like two maple and two cinnamon sugar donuts. The guy gave us that look that made me nervous, admitting that he'd have to go check and make sure they still had those flavors left. He lifted the lid on the single donut box and announced that he only had one maple and one cinnamon sugar left (the ones on display), but that there were still a lot of matcha ginger ones remaining. Lauren and I looked at each other, and with that one look we ordered the two donuts from the display case and agreed to split and share them so that we could still try both flavors.

Since my chai was ready before Lauren's latte, I was in charge of finding a seat. Given that it was about 10 in the morning, the place was packed. The only available seats were at a community-like table so we ended up sitting there. My "lack of comfort" hindered me from taking pictures of our beautiful donuts, which is a pretty big bummer. 

Once we were seated as comfortably as possible, we hastily split both donuts in half. Most vegan donuts are more cake-like and dense. These ones though, didn't even taste vegan. They were super fluffy, and the texture and taste were spot on. I preferred the maple but Lauren's favorite was the cinnamon sugar. Both were delicious, but I enjoy the glaze, hence me favoring the maple version. They were a little on the cold side, but I bet they would be even better if we came earlier in the morning (plus we would have more of a selection). By the way, my chai was great as well.

I'll definitely be indulging in dozens of more Dottie's Donuts while living in Philadelphia. One thing that Lauren and I both like about Philadelphia over Sacramento is the wide range of vegan offerings. Hub Bub wasn't my favorite place ever; it was just too crowded and hipster-y for my taste. A branch of Green Line Cafe literally just opened pretty close to our apartment, and they sell Dottie's Donuts there as well. We've already made plans to go there next week, and if I enjoy the atmosphere there, it's going to be pretty hard to stop myself from making multiple donut trips throughout the week.

This entire Friday was pretty much dedicated to vegan donuts and I'm totally okay with that. This just goes  to prove my weirdness. Thankfully Lauren is almost as weird as me and doesn't mind spending "Best Friend Friday" trying new-to-us vegan treats!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 14

I'll come right out and admit it, we didn't go anywhere on January 9 for "Best Friend Friday". But we had a really good reason to stay inside our apartment all day long. Lauren's new sewing machine was getting delivered and we had to be home to receive and sign for the exciting package. Typically UPS comes sometime in the late morning and USPS always arrives around lunchtime (we weren't sure who the carrier was), so we weren't expecting to be cooped up all day long. But as the day continued to move on without a call regarding a package, we soon realized that this entire Friday was going to be spent inside.

All was not lost though. We spent the day watching Netflix (always a nice, relaxing thing to do) which meant a lot of knitting time for me. Lauren bought me a ton of yarn for Christmas so I've been even more eager to work on my knit blanket!
When Lauren's sewing machine finally arrived (around 7 PM!), she quickly took it out of its box and started working on a project right away. Of course watching someone else sew made me want to stitch something up as well. After sitting on my desk for several days due to nervousness and frustration, I finally finished sewing my Kindle sleeve, and it didn't turn out so bad after all. Thankfully, it isn't' too small. With more time to spare, I whipped out the paper cutter and started making plans for my 2014 random album!

Although we didn't venture out this Friday like we would typically do, I had a great Friday with my bestie! We had a lot of free time to do crafty things together and now Lauren has her own sewing machine so we'll be able to sew together at the same time, like a true sweatshop!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 13

On January 2 Lauren and I hopped on a plane and headed back to Philadelphia. It was a nice surprise that all of my siblings wanted to accompany my dad as he drove me to the airport around 4 in the morning. Together, Lauren and I had more luggage on our way back to Philadelphia than what we started with. I underestimated the amount of Christmas presents I would receive and to begin with, I packed way too many clothes for only a three week trip. I guess what they say is true, being Back Home Ballers is a real thing and I'm not complaining! Thank goodness both of my checked bags met the weight restriction of fifty pounds. One bag was around forty-three pounds, and the other was exactly fifty!

As much as I love California way more than any other state (I'm a big fan of nice weather and the suburbs), I was looking forward to getting back into my own routine. Like my mom says, I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to my personal things. I missed having my own kitchen with all of my familiar foods and cookware. I like being able to cook whatever and whenever I want without having to worry about who else is going to be there at the same time, and I enjoy having my own refrigerator and filling it up exactly as I please. I guess I do share all of these things with Lauren in our apartment, but in most instances our personalities are so similar that it's basically like we're the same person, and so we don't really have issues about large disagreements which makes sharing a space a lot easier. So even though I knew I would miss the comforts of home and family, I was happy to be going back to my "normal".

Just like flying out West, we had a layover in Phoenix again. Nothing truly memorable happened during our flights though. However, once we landed in Philadelphia we managed to fit all of luggage in a little taxi and hitched a ride back to our apartment. Lesson learned, the $36 we spent on taxi fare was completely worth it and definitely the only way to travel to and from the airport with checked bags.

I was so happy to see that there wasn't any damage or changes done to our apartment while we were gone. Marissa scared me by saying that one of her friends (who also lives in a cold area) came back to school after Winter break to find that his water pipes burst because they froze, or something like that. It was so relieving to see our apartment, just the way we left it. We had the bright idea to clean before we bounced in December. Coming back to a clean place and not being disgusted with the state of your living arrangement is very rewarding. Lauren wanted to unpack all of our stuff right away and get that task out of the way. I agreed and so we spent probably two hours emptying out numerous suitcases until my hunger started making me grumpy as I was getting into my "window period".

Since we hadn't gone grocery shopping yet, we jumped at the completely necessary chance of eating out. We collectively decided on Sweet Greens. I felt like I ate so much junk and sugar while home and so I was actually pretty excited to have a hearty salad for dinner. This was our second time going here (we also went when we first moved in September), and so I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted. I ordered a custom salad with spinach, spicy broccoli, carrots, chickpeas, corn, tofu, onions, and tomatoes with their spicy cashew dressing. I also tried the curry lentil soup. The salad was amazing, just as I remembered it. The soup was okay. It was a nice addition to my meal, but there wasn't anything special about it. I'll probably just stick to the salad next time.

That's pretty much how we spent our entire Friday, flying from one coast to another. I wouldn't say I was jet legged, but I definitely had a difficult time falling asleep the first couple of nights being back in Philadelphia. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Paint Your Own Pottery

Back in elementary school I attended a few birthday parties at a local paint-your-own-pottery studio. Basically you selected a ceramic piece, chose a few colors, and painted to your heart's desire. Then a few days later, your custom decorated piece was ready to be picked up and brought home.
Fast forward about 15 years, and I found myself doing the same thing. In 2012 my mom, siblings, Lauren, Heather, and I discovered Color Me Mine. Three years ago I painted my first cereal bowl, completely covered in tiny dots. Everyone (except Frank) had so much fun expressing themselves in this way, that we kind of made it a tradition and have been going back at least once a year since then.
While home for the holidays last month, my mom, Lauren, and I were eager to go to Color Me Mine again. We planned to on December 20 but I decided to change up my design routine. In the past I've painted all of my ceramics with tiny dots. Although this technique gives a nice finished texture and looks really cool, I was ready for something completely different. My current painted pottery "collection" contains a hearty sized cereal bowl, a smaller bowl, a star-shaped decorative dish, and a black and white tall vase. My favorite and definitely most used item is my initial cereal bowl, mainly for its huge size. Even though I wanted to change how I decorated my piece, I still wanted to stick with my favorite cereal bowl.
I decided that I wanted to eventually have a "collection" of hand painted fruit bowls. I opted for strawberries on my first bowl with a solid pink on the inside. I just love how my bowl turned out, so much so that we all made reservations to go back to Color Me Mine on New Year's Eve. They were offering a two day special; if you purchased at least $15 in ceramics, you got to paint a free mug. Of course we had to this, even though Lauren and I had already committed to preparing the majority of the food for NYE nachos!
This time I went with pineapple on my bowl with a blue interior. For now I want to stick to painting just the fruit I actually like. I'm a pretty picky eater when it comes to fruit, so we'll see how this pans out. On my free mug I attempted to paint a very bright and colorful town with multicolored, different styled houses. These two pieces of pottery weren't ready to be picked up (they have to be fired in a kiln) by the time Lauren and I hopped back on a plane to Philadelphia. Hopefully though my parents will be able to bring our pieces with them when they come and visit in March.

I'm far from being a good freehand painter, but I love painting my own pottery nonetheless. It's fun to have the freedom to transform a solid white object into basically anything you want with tons of paint, and be able to use and cherish something you created. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 12

 Way back in November I saw on Facebook that Cal Expo was hosting an ongoing event in December with lots of lights and amusement rides. All of the lights looked really cool and I thought it would be neat to walk around and see a whole bunch of Christmas decorations in one place.

It reminded me of driving around to look at Christmas lights in different neighborhoods, except this time it was actually like walking from door to door.
I mentioned this to Lauren and got her on board too. We figured if the perfect moment popped up in our busy Sacramento schedules, then we'd give it a shot. It seemed really fun, but I didn't want to be stressed having to fit it in.

About a week later I received a text from my mom asking if we wanted to go to Global Winter Wonderland while we were in town with the rest of my family. Of course we responded, saying we would love to go. It's like it was meant to be. It took a while to find a date that worked with everyone's different schedules, but we were all able to free up time in the evening of the 26th.
We all happily agreed to skip the rides and simply enjoy the fanfare of the lights and scenery. As we entered the venue, I was pleased to learn that the attraction was actually a decorated representation of the world. Global Winter Wonderland highlighted many of the famous creations found throughout the globe. My favorite spectacles included the: pandas and dragon in China; huge peacock (I'm not sure which country that's from); gondola and gondolier in Italy; Big Ben in England; and the more locally recognized Golden Gate Bridge.
After walking around taking tons of pictures, we decided to sit down for a little bit and enjoy the Circus of Lights show featuring acts from different cultures. There were many performances by Chinese contortionists and plate spinners, Argentinian dancing gauchos, and Kenyan acrobats. The majority of the show was pretty good, although it did seem a little long and repetitive. Maybe it was just the fact that I was freezing sitting outside for over an hour, but I was happy to go inside and walk around the market.

I was expecting to see a lot of various "handmade" items from around the world, being that the theme of the overall attraction was "global". However, the most "diverse" items being sold were stun guns and tasers, and those don't really scream "diversity" to me, in a positive way.
Although I wasn't super impressed with the holiday market and I would've been happily content with watching just the first half of the show, I'm glad I did go to Global Winter Wonderland solely to admire the lit up wonders of the world. A good Friday was had not only by besties, but also by my family.   

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015 Resolutions

I wasn't planning on making any resolutions for the new year. I figured my monthly goals were plenty to keep my challenged. But alas, the last few days of December I found myself really wanting to set several goals, completely separate from my 24th birthday goals and subsequent monthly goals lists.

In 2015 I want to...
1. Run a marathon in under 5 hours, regardless of how many attempts it takes me. (*Side note: I just signed up for the San Francisco Marathon in July!)

2. Do something crafty every single day, even if that means just knitting one row of a project.

3. Get my 10,000 steps in everyday. I lost my original FitBit in November, so Lauren bought be a new one for Christmas. Now I'm determined to get everything I can out of this device which means pushing myself to get those steps so that it buzzes everyday.

For me, in order to be successful in accomplishing something, my goals must be specific. Personally, it doesn't work to tell myself that "I'm going to run more". What is more? Am I going to run more miles than I did the previous year? Am I going to every single day throughout the year? To be successful I need to clarify exactly what it is that I was to accomplish. Thus, my New Year's resolution is to get a marathon PR and break that 5 hour marker.

Related to running, I want to improve my fitness and get back into shape. This isn't something that's going to happen by running 5 miles once a week or whatever. I believe that fitness and health should be incorporated into everyday life. As cool as it would be to say that I ran every single day for an entire year, that's just not something that's healthy for me. I ended up with bursitis in my hip because I pushed myself too hard when I ran everyday in October. I need those rest days to let my body recuperate. Health is something that is always on my mind. I do a pretty good job of watching what I eat (when I'm not home for the holidays!), so I wanted exercise to be something that I also keep track of on a daily basis. What better way to do this than by making sure I get 10,000 steps a day. While full on running isn't something that I should do everyday (personally), walking around 5 miles per day is very doable for me and something that won't hurt my body by overexerting myself. By getting my steps in, I'm also encouraging myself to get out more and explore my city.

I like doing crafty things. In the past few years I've rekindled my joy of sewing. I recently picked up knitting again. I find cross stitching very rewarding, although super time consuming. And I find pleasure in doing all things crafty in between. I didn't want craftiness to become a chore, but I do want to be more creative in this new year. I want to make sure I'm using my time being somewhat productive, rather than just wasting my days browsing the Internet. 

So far, 9 days into the new year, I've done something crafty everyday but haven't tracked 10,000 steps everyday. I'm slowly easing back into running and created a running calendar so that I can highlight the daily mileage I actually do.

This almost feels like Lent in January to me...just a thought.

And there you go. Here's to hoping I keep my resolutions!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 11

Sometime back in November, Lauren and I received our invitations to my cousin Abby's 5th birthday party. The rest of my family also obviously attended, as well as Lauren's mom Leti along with Leti's 5 year old granddaughter, Kimi. Abby and Kimi have met once before, but it's always so funny to watch little kids play together and act like best friends even though they haven't seen each other in over a year. So on this Friday, three weeks ago, Lauren and I spent "Best Friend Friday" doing best friend things celebrating Abby's birthday.
Her birthday party was held at a local children's science museum. I remember going to the Discovery Museum when I was a kid; in the back of the center is a planetarium where patrons get to view our solar system and the Earth's sky at nighttime. Just as I recall from my childhood, at Abby's party the guide described the solar system, specific stars, and the big constellations at a young kid's level. I was surprised at how many preschoolers actually knew all the planets, and one even asked about Pluto.

The party was casually catered, but my aunt made sure that there would be a healthy amount of vegan options. I enjoyed the fruit salad (especially the pineapple!) and the pasta salad with kale. But I was really impressed that there were also crackers and vegan almond cheese! I've never tried almond cheese before, let alone any cold vegan cheese. It was delicious nonetheless though, and I got to take home the vegan leftovers!
My aunt asked Lauren and I to take pictures at the party and we didn't have any issues doing that. Our only conundrum was that we were afraid the other parents (who we didn't know) would be freaked out over us snapping pictures of their little kids. So Lauren and I did the best we could without looking like creepers. Lauren even managed to snap my family's belated Christmas card photo, as someone was pretty insistent to get this done in front of a dinosaur statue.
At the end of the party everyone sang happy birthday to Abby. It reminded me of having birthday parties with my classmates when I was in elementary school and trying so hard to act nonchalant, hiding the huge grin on my face as people were singing to me. I feel so old now!

I'm pretty sure Abby had fun at her party, and I'm glad Lauren (and Lauren's family) are basically like a branch of me which makes them practically family too. So I'm happy my bestie and I got to spend this Friday evening together acting as photographers at my cousin's birthday party.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Resolution Run 10 Miler

 Towards the beginning of December, Lauren, Leti, and I registered for a ten mile trail race on New Year's Day. Leti was about to start running Ultras again, and she figured this would be a good way to get back into trail running. So, Lauren and I decided to join her. I need to get back into running too and start marathon training(!), so what better way to do that than by getting a few miles in to start the year off right?

I hadn't run this far since September, and throughout November and December I wasn't running consistently. I knew this race wouldn't be my fastest, but I figured I would get a lot of "training" runs in during the three weeks prior since I'd be back in sunny California. I wasn't worried at all about the fact that I haven't even run trails since August.

Although I'm not even close to being some elite athlete nor do I even come close to placing in my age division, fueling and hydrating are super important components to longer distance running for everyone, especially if you're going to be out on the course longer than the race leaders. Since I hadn't been seriously running for about half of a year, my intuition regarding race prep was completely lost. I didn't even bother to carb-load two nights before the race (easily one of my favorite things to do), and the night before the race (New Year's Eve) I stuffed myself with nachos. Because I moved to Philadelphia, obviously all of my stuff is on the East Coast too. I didn't pack any gels or blocks to eat while running, and while getting my gear ready for race day, I honestly didn't feel that it was important.
I arrived to the Auburn Overlook, clad in cold weather running gear (because I'll always be cold on either coast in the winter), and my handheld water bottle in tow. I waved eagerly to my sister and dad (thanks for braving the cold and being awesome cheerleaders!) as I ran past them at the start line and onward to the trails. My plan was to stick with Lauren and Leti the entire race so that we would all get through the torturous ten miles together. I was hoping to finish in under two hours, but since none of us had really been running at all, I knew that time goal was a big stretch.

The first two miles of the race were completely downhill and it felt great. My favorite part of trail running are the downhills; I feel like I'm flying down them, which I know really helps my overall pace. For these first two miles, the three of us stuck with the majority of the other SacFit runners. Then around mile 2.5 we encountered our first hill.

When we joined Ultras a year ago, we were taught to run the flats and downhill, but walk up the hills. That trick got me through 50 miles, so of course I was going to use the same strategy for this race. Not to get all Miley-ish, but that first hill came in like a wrecking ball. My legs are definitely not used to climbing like they used to be. Thankfully it wasn't a super steep hill, so I pushed through it.

By mile 4 our few SacFit buddies were pretty much separated from one another throughout the course. Leti, Lauren, and I were still running together and I still felt pretty good. Because I'm used to flying down the hills uninhibited, it was really hard on my shins to "brake" while running in order to pace myself.

Mile 6 was the beginning of an out and back loop, concluding with mile 8.5. These were probably the hardest miles for me, mentally. Physically though, this part of the course was mainly flat and slightly downhill, so it shouldn't have been too hard. However, this section was also very shady from the vast amount of trees and so I was pretty cold. That, coupled with the fact that I had been running for over an hour without refueling, made me not want to be there. If I would've fueled properly during the race, this portion would've been a lot easier for me.

Right around the time we reached mile 9 we came to face to face with a pretty large hill. I can't speak for the others, but I was just done at this point. I wanted to be back home, in the hot shower consuming hot, delicious food. I just wanted to finish this last mile and cross that finish line. I hiked up that hill as strongly as I could. When I'm having a tough time climbing a hill I find it mentally much easier to look down at my feet the whole time. This way I can't see how far I have left and I won't be able to look at the true elevation gains. This worked out perfectly. I reached the top of the hill with just half of a mile left.

With just half of a mile remaining, Leti was having a tougher time than Lauren and me. I think she was getting irritated that we kept pushing her and telling her to run, so she urged us to run on ahead and finish. One of our running buddies caught up with Leti, so I didn't feel so bad leaving her.
By the time we finished the announcer had already left. I wasn't really bothered or upset by this, but it is pretty funny. Marissa and my dad were there to watch us cross the finish line. Leti finished about five minutes after us. I walked as fast as I could to the food table and stocked up on oranges, blueberry bagel pieces, and a warm bowl of veggie minestrone soup. Everything tasted so good and it was just what I needed.

My official finish time was 2:22:51.2 which I feel okay with. I feel like I could've gone faster, and it's not that close to my goal (which I realize was kind of out of reach). But for not having run trails for half a year, I'm just glad I made myself go out and do it. I know I should've prepared for the race a lot better than I did, and I need to fuel a lot better during longer runs.

This is probably my only "fun" race for 2015. I decided that this year, I want to run less races but more important ones. Since I don't have the pleasure and ease of participating in the weekly SacFit runs this year, I know it's up to just me to hold myself accountable. I've come a long way in 2014; whoever thought that I could be an ultra runner? While I definitely don't currently have the endurance or strength to do that again right now, I also don't want to lose the fitness that I have gained this past year. Lauren and I came up with our small race calendar for 2015. I don't see any ultra races in my immediate future, but I do hope to PR in a few distances!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

01.15 Goals

In an effort to be more productive and accomplish my goals during my 24th year of life, I've decided to post a "to-do list" of sorts at the beginning of each month. At the end of the month I'll go back over my list and talk about what I was able to conquer and note the tasks I have yet to tackle.
1. Complete Summer Sampler blocks 16-20.
2. Read a book.
3. Use my new kitchen gadgets.
4. Stick to a running schedule.
5. Sew something for myself.
6. Go somewhere new to me.
7. Take lots of pictures, with people in them.
8. Start a 2014 scrapbook.
9. Go to the farmers' market.
10. Stretch and go to yoga more often.

Cheers to January, and 2015!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 10

Last Friday was so different from most, in a good way.

Lauren and I struggled walking half a dozen blocks to the subway station, hopping on the thankfully pretty empty subway, and squeezing in with all of our luggage on another train which was not an easy task. Who actually packs light? It was all worth it though. We ended up at the Philadelphia airport, super excited to be going home to California for a few weeks, but probably even more ecstatic to be able dump the majority of our bags off at the check in desk.

Seriously though, we vowed to take a taxi upon our arrival back to Philadelphia regardless of how much money we would otherwise save.

Our first leg of the trip took us from Philadelphia to Phoenix where we were supposed to have a two hour layover. The weather was perfectly clear (from our perspective), but sadly Las Vegas was having weather issues and that's where our connecting flight was coming from. This caused our connection to be delayed by at least two more hours. This couldn't have come at a worse time. Lauren and I were so excited to be coming home to see our families, but even more importantly my stomach was already grumbling for the delicious Chinese food I was planning on indulging in at Mayflower upon arriving in Sacramento. We had been planning this dinner for over a month and I was going to be devastated if the restaurant closed before we got there. First world problems, I know.

After rearranging my ride home (my dad had to also pick up my brother from college) and checking Mayflower's hours, my hope was restored. Lauren and I were sitting at a different gate because our actual gate was flooded with people, so we almost missed our flight (once it finally made its appearance)! Thankfully Lauren realized that our flight was already boarding, and we rushed over just in time to still board with the group A passengers!

Lauren loves the window seat and I'll sit in any seat BUT the aisle seat, so that means I always get a middle seat so Lauren and I can sit next to each other. Randomly (perhaps), one of my brother's good friends from elementary school ended up sitting next to me from Phoenix to Sacramento...what are the chances? Once we landed in Sacramento, I spotted one of our SacFit running buddies waiting at the airport. His daughter was also on the same Phoenix flight as us. So weird!

Leti and Dan picked us up from the airport and immediately drove us to Mayflower! I skipped lunch so that I would be super hungry and stuff myself with chow fun and tofu. We met my brother Frank, my uncle Norman, and Lauren's dad at the restaurant. My dad also showed up later. My family has been going to Mayflower for as long as I can remember, so much so that the owners know us and the waiters know our usual orders. I was about to place my order, and the waiter stopped me and said, "Let me guess, you want the vegetarian food?". Spot on!

After sharing lots of East Coast stories and eating my weight in the most delicious Chinese food in the world, we headed to our respective homes.

This was seriously one of the best Fridays in a really long time.

*I've been pretty absent from blogging lately, due to being home for the holidays. So, my "Best Friend Friday" posts are really backlogged but I hope to catch up on the past few weeks soon!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

12.14 Goals Roundup

I spent the majority of December back home in Sacramento, which meant I spent a lot of time hanging out with my family. Consequently, I didn't complete many tasks on my December goals list which I'm so completely fine with. Family time trumps pretty much anything. So, even though I didn't get to cross many things off of my goals list, I'm perfectly content with how I spent my time throughout the month.

Even though I already gave away how "little" I did in December, I'll still go ahead and talk about list.
1. Make some type of scrapbook: I was really hoping to document my short trip home somehow. I wanted to incorporate lots of pictures and souvenirs from the holidays, but sadly I really didn't take that many pictures. I failed at scrapbooking this month, but I still plan on creating some sort of smallish photo-filled book to reminisce my entire 2014.

2. Read two books: The past few months my goal has been to read just one book per month, and I didn't really have any issues completing that. So I thought I'd up my game for December and challenge myself to read two books. Because I chose to spend my free time visiting family and doing family related activities (which I don't regret at all), I only read one book. I ordered "The Chocolate Money" from Amazon before leaving Philadelphia, with the intention of reading the majority of it on the plane to Sacramento. Well that obviously didn't happen. I didn't even start the book till my second week home. However, it was a pretty fast read and I finished it in about two days. I already had a second book to read, but I never started it. I should probably just stick to trying to read one book per month. I did buy a Kindle though, so I'll have to try purchasing/borrowing books on my new device!

3. Run at least 50 miles: I was so certain this would be an easily attainable goal. I packed tons of running clothes, thinking I would love the warmer California weather and want to run all the time. For the past month or so though I've been dealing with some hip pain, most likely due to trochanteric bursitis, which has made running a lot more painful. Needless to say, I didn't complete this goal and only ran 21.2 miles in December. But let's be real here, even if my hip wasn't bothering me, I probably still wouldn't have got 50 miles in. No excuses over here!

4. Finish gifting all of the Christmas presents ON TIME: This was a big one on my list and something that was super important to me. Normally, I find myself promising family members/Lauren that I'll finish their gift(s) soon and I don't have anything to give them on the actual Christmas day (or anywhere near Christmas, to be honest). I'm almost completely caught up on gifts I owe people (I still owe Lauren a birthday cowl!), so I really didn't want to dig myself deeper into the hole of no return. I'm so happy to announce that I successfully gifted everyone their presents on time, and several of them were handmade!

5. Complete Summer Sampler blocks 16-20: I didn't even work on my Summer Sampler this month, but that's not to say I haven't cross stitched. I started working on something new, which I hope to have finished by Marissa's birthday.

6. Run one  mile in under 8 minutes: I completely forgot about this challenge until January 1 when my brother reminded me that we never had our one mile race. It's very likely that he could easily beat me, but there's also a good chance that I actually can run a single mile in under 8 minutes. This will happen sometime!

7. Clean up and organize my room at my parents' house: I cleaned up my room a little bit. But then I realized that my room at home is never going to be truly cleaned and organized for two main reasons. First, since I'm not living there anymore, my room has kind of become a storage room for my mom. She likes to store her excess skeins of yarn and the family's DVD collection in my room. Secondly, my room isn't that big and I have so much furniture loaded in my tiny space that the entire perimeter of my room is made up of various pieces of furniture. All of the furniture is being used (mainly for storage for me), so I can't really get rid of any of it. There's not much room to move anything around, so I don't see this space getting any cleaner or more organized than it is now.

8. Ride my bike: Currently my bike is residing at Lauren's mom's house in Roseville. I was hoping to somehow ride my bike from her house to my parents' house, but the routes I came up with all involved riding my bike on the freeway which really didn't seem like a good idea at all.

9. Craft something that I pinned: I made myself, Marissa, Heather, and mom marbled clay ring dishes from A Beautiful Mess as part of their Christmas presents. Lauren and I had tons of fun pairing different colors and coming up with some pretty unique pieces. We also made beads with the leftover marbled clay.

10. Try a new recipe: I thought for sure I'd be able to easily fit this goal into my holiday cooking somehow. But as it turned out, I made my Christmas menu pretty much exactly the same as my Thanksgiving meal, so no new recipes were needed. I did receive a food processor and a Ninja chopper for Christmas so I'm pretty certain I'll be trying lots of new recipes in 2015.

Score for December: 2 out of 10